The Man in the Iron Mask
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 9 out of 12
these two men were our proscribed heroes, Porthos and Aramis, who had
taken refuge in Belle-Isle, since the ruin of their hopes, since the
discomfiture of the colossal schemes of M. d'Herblay.
"If is of no use your saying anything to the contrary, my dear Aramis,"
repeated Porthos, inhaling vigorously the salt breeze with which he
charged his massive chest, "It is of no use, Aramis. The disappearance
of all the fishing-boats that went out two days ago is not an ordinary
circumstance. There has been no storm at sea; the weather has been
constantly calm, not even the lightest gale; and even if we had had a
tempest, all our boats would not have foundered. I repeat, it is
strange. This complete disappearance astonishes me, I tell you."
"True," murmured Aramis. "You are right, friend Porthos; it is true,
there is something strange in it."
"And further," added Porthos, whose ideas the assent of the bishop of
Vannes seemed to enlarge; "and, further, do you not observe that if the
boats have perished, not a single plank has washed ashore?"
"I have remarked it as well as yourself."
"And do you not think it strange that the two only boats we had left in
the whole island, and which I sent in search of the others - "
Aramis here interrupted his companion by a cry, and by so sudden a
movement, that Porthos stopped as if he were stupefied. "What do you
say, Porthos? What! - You have sent the two boats - "
"In search of the others! Yes, to be sure I have," replied Porthos,
"Unhappy man! What have you done? Then we are indeed lost," cried the
"Lost! - what did you say?" exclaimed the terrified Porthos. "How lost,
Aramis? How are we lost?"
Aramis bit his lips. "Nothing! nothing! Your pardon, I meant to say - "
"That if we were inclined - if we took a fancy to make an excursion by
sea, we could not."
"Very good! and why should that vex you? A precious pleasure, _ma foi!_
For my part, I don't regret it at all. What I regret is certainly not
the more or less amusement we can find at Belle-Isle: what I regret,
Aramis, is Pierrefonds; Bracieux; le Vallon; beautiful France! Here, we
are not in France, my dear friend; we are - I know not where. Oh! I
tell you, in full sincerity of soul, and your affection will excuse my
frankness, but I declare to you I am not happy at Belle-Isle. No; in
good truth, I am not happy!"
Aramis breathed a long, but stifled sigh. "Dear friend," replied he:
"that is why it is so sad a thing you have sent the two boats we had left
in search of the boats which disappeared two days ago. If you had not
sent them away, we would have departed."
"'Departed!' And the orders, Aramis?"
"_Parbleu!_ Why, the orders you have been constantly, in and out of
season, repeating to me - that we were to hold Belle-Isle against the
usurper. You know very well!"
"That is true!" murmured Aramis again.
"You see, then, plainly, my friend, that we could not depart; and that
the sending away of the boats in search of the others cannot prove
prejudicial to us in the very least."
Aramis was silent; and his vague glances, luminous as that of an
albatross, hovered for a long time over the sea, interrogating space,
seeking to pierce the very horizon.
"With all that, Aramis," continued Porthos, who adhered to his idea, and
that the more closely from the bishop having apparently endorsed it, -
"with all that, you give me no explanation about what can have happened
to these unfortunate boats. I am assailed by cries and complaints
whichever way I go. The children cry to see the desolation of the women,
as if I could restore the absent husbands and fathers. What do you
suppose, my friend, and how ought I to answer them?"
"Think all you like, my good Porthos, and say nothing."
This reply did not satisfy Porthos at all. He turned away grumbling
something in ill-humor. Aramis stopped the valiant musketeer. "Do you
remember," said he, in a melancholy tone, kneading the two hands of the
giant between his own with affectionate cordiality, "do you remember, my
friend, that in the glorious days of youth - do you remember, Porthos,
when we were all strong and valiant - we, and the other two - if we had
then had an inclination to return to France, do you think this sheet of
salt water would have stopped us?"
"Oh!" said Porthos; "but six leagues."
"If you had seen me get astride of a plank, would you have remained on
"No, _pardieu!_ No, Aramis. But, nowadays, what sort of a plank should
we want, my friend! I, in particular." And the Seigneur de Bracieux
cast a profound glance over his colossal rotundity with a loud laugh.
"And do you mean seriously to say you are not tired of Belle-Isle a
little, and that you would not prefer the comforts of your dwelling - of
your episcopal palace, at Vannes? Come, confess."
"No," replied Aramis, without daring to look at Porthos.
"Let us stay where we are, then," said his friend, with a sigh, which, in
spite of the efforts he made to restrain it, escaped his echoing breast.
"Let us remain! - let us remain! And yet," added he, "and yet, if we
seriously wished, but that decidedly - if we had a fixed idea, one firmly
taken, to return to France, and there were not boats - "
"Have you remarked another thing, my friend - that is, since the
disappearance of our barks, during the last two days' absence of
fishermen, not a single small boat has landed on the shores of the isle?"
"Yes, certainly! you are right. I, too, have remarked it, and the
observation was the more naturally made, for, before the last two fatal
days, barks and shallops were as plentiful as shrimps."
"I must inquire," said Aramis, suddenly, and with great agitation. "And
then, if we had a raft constructed - "
"But there are some canoes, my friend; shall I board one?"
"A canoe! - a canoe! Can you think of such a thing, Porthos? A canoe to
be upset in. No, no," said the bishop of Vannes; "it is not our trade to
ride upon the waves. We will wait, we will wait."
And Aramis continued walking about with increased agitation. Porthos,
who grew tired of following all the feverish movements of his friend -
Porthos, who in his faith and calmness understood nothing of the sort of
exasperation which was betrayed by his companion's continual convulsive
starts - Porthos stopped him. "Let us sit down upon this rock," said
he. "Place yourself there, close to me, Aramis, and I conjure you, for
the last time, to explain to me in a manner I can comprehend - explain to
me what we are doing here."
"Porthos," said Aramis, much embarrassed.
"I know that the false king wished to dethrone the true king. That is a
fact, that I understand. Well - "
"Yes?" said Aramis.
"I know that the false king formed the project of selling Belle-Isle to
the English. I understand that, too."
"I know that we engineers and captains came and threw ourselves into
Belle-Isle to take direction of the works, and the command of ten
companies levied and paid by M. Fouquet, or rather the ten companies of
his son-in-law. All that is plain."
Aramis rose in a state of great impatience. He might be said to be a
lion importuned by a gnat. Porthos held him by the arm. "But what I
cannot understand, what, in spite of all the efforts of my mind, and all
my reflections, I cannot comprehend, and never shall comprehend, is, that
instead of sending us troops, instead of sending us reinforcements of
men, munitions, provisions, they leave us without boats, they leave Belle-
Isle without arrivals, without help; it is that instead of establishing
with us a correspondence, whether by signals, or written or verbal
communications, all relations with the shore are intercepted. Tell me,
Aramis, answer me, or rather, before answering me, will you allow me to
tell you what I have thought? Will you hear what my idea is, the plan I
The bishop raised his head. "Well! Aramis," continued Porthos, "I have
dreamed, I have imagined that an event has taken place in France. I
dreamt of M. Fouquet all the night, of lifeless fish, of broken eggs, of
chambers badly furnished, meanly kept. Villainous dreams, my dear
D'Herblay; very unlucky, such dreams!"
"Porthos, what is that yonder?" interrupted Aramis, rising suddenly, and
pointing out to his friend a black spot upon the empurpled line of the
"A bark!" said Porthos; "yes, it is a bark! Ah! we shall have some news
"There are two!" cried the bishop, on discovering another mast; "two!
"Five!" said Porthos, in his turn. "Six! seven! Ah! _mon Dieu! mon
Dieu!_ it is a fleet!"
"Our boats returning, probably," said Aramis, very uneasily, in spite of
the assurance he affected.
"They are very large for fishing-boats," observed Porthos, "and do you
not remark, my friend, that they come from the Loire?"
"They come from the Loire - yes - "
"And look! everybody here sees them as well as ourselves; look, women and
children are beginning to crowd the jetty."
An old fisherman passed. "Are those our barks, yonder?" asked Aramis.
The old man looked steadily into the eye of the horizon.
"No, monseigneur," replied he, "they are lighter boars, boats in the
"Boats in the royal service?" replied Aramis, starting. "How do you know
that?" said he.
"By the flag."
"But," said Porthos, "the boat is scarcely visible; how the devil, my
friend, can you distinguish the flag?"
"I see there is one," replied the old man; "our boats, trade lighters, do
not carry any. That sort of craft is generally used for transport of
"Ah!" groaned Aramis.
"_Vivat!_" cried Porthos, "they are sending us reinforcements, don't you
think they are, Aramis?"
"Unless it is the English coming."
"By the Loire? That would have an evil look, Porthos; for they must have
come through Paris!"
"You are right; they are reinforcements, decidedly, or provisions."
Aramis leaned his head upon his hands, and made no reply. Then, all at
once, - "Porthos," said he, "have the alarm sounded."
"The alarm! do you imagine such a thing?"
"Yes, and let the cannoniers mount their batteries, the artillerymen be
at their pieces, and be particularly watchful of the coast batteries."
Porthos opened his eyes to their widest extent. He looked attentively at
his friend, to convince himself he was in his proper senses.
"_I_ will do it, my dear Porthos," continued Aramis, in his blandest
tone; "I will go and have these orders executed myself, if you do not go,
"Well! I will - instantly!" said Porthos, who went to execute the
orders, casting all the while looks behind him, to see if the bishop of
Vannes were not deceived; and if, on recovering more rational ideas, he
would not recall him. The alarm was sounded, trumpets brayed, drums
rolled; the great bronze bell swung in horror from its lofty belfry. The
dikes and moles were quickly filled with the curious and soldiers;
matches sparkled in the hands of the artillerymen, placed behind the
large cannon bedded in their stone carriages. When every man was at his
post, when all the preparations for defense were made: "Permit me,
Aramis, to try to comprehend," whispered Porthos, timidly, in Aramis's
"My dear friend, you will comprehend but too soon," murmured M.
d'Herblay, in reply to this question of his lieutenant.
"The fleet which is coming yonder, with sails unfurled, straight towards
the port of Belle-Isle, is a royal fleet, is it not?"
"But as there are two kings in France, Porthos, to which of these two
kings does this fleet belong?"
"Oh! you open my eyes," replied the giant, stunned by the insinuation.
And Porthos, whose eyes this reply of his friend's had at last opened, or
rather thickened the bandage which covered his sight, went with his best
speed to the batteries to overlook his people, and exhort every one to do
his duty. In the meantime, Aramis, with his eye fixed on the horizon,
saw the ships continually drawing nearer. The people and the soldiers,
perched on the summits of the rocks, could distinguish the masts, then
the lower sails, and at last the hulls of the lighters, bearing at the
masthead the royal flag of France. It was night when one of these
vessels, which had created such a sensation among the inhabitants of
Belle-Isle, dropped anchor within cannon shot of the place. It was soon
seen, notwithstanding the darkness, that some sort of agitation reigned
on board the vessel, from the side of which a skiff was lowered, of which
the three rowers, bending to their oars, took the direction of the port,
and in a few instants struck land at the foot of the fort. The commander
jumped ashore. He had a letter in his hand, which he waved in the air,
and seemed to wish to communicate with somebody. This man was soon
recognized by several soldiers as one of the pilots of the island. He
was the captain of one of the two barks retained by Aramis, but which
Porthos, in his anxiety with regard to the fate of the fishermen who had
disappeared, had sent in search of the missing boats. He asked to be
conducted to M. d'Herblay. Two soldiers, at a signal from a sergeant,
marched him between them, and escorted him. Aramis was upon the quay.
The envoy presented himself before the bishop of Vannes. The darkness
was almost absolute, notwithstanding the flambeaux borne at a small
distance by the soldiers who were following Aramis in his rounds.
"Well, Jonathan, from whom do you come?"
"Monseigneur, from those who captured me."
"Who captured you?"
"You know, monseigneur, we set out in search of our comrades?"
"Yes; and afterwards?"
"Well! monseigneur, within a short league we were captured by a _chasse
maree_ belonging to the king."
"Ah!" said Aramis.
"Of which king?" cried Porthos.
"Speak!" continued the bishop.
"We were captured, monseigneur, and joined to those who had been taken
"What was the cause of the mania for capturing you all?" said Porthos.
"Monsieur, to prevent us from telling you," replied Jonathan.
Porthos was again at a loss to comprehend. "And they have released you
to-day?" asked he.
"That I might tell you they have captured us, monsieur."
"Trouble upon trouble," thought honest Porthos.
During this time Aramis was reflecting.
"Humph!" said he, "then I suppose it is a royal fleet blockading the
"Who commands it?"
"The captain of the king's musketeers."
"D'Artagnan!" exclaimed Porthos.
"I believe that is the name."
"And did he give you this letter?"
"Bring the torches nearer."
"It is his writing," said Porthos.
Aramis eagerly read the following lines:
"Order of the king to take Belle-Isle; or to put the garrison to the
sword, if they resist; order to make prisoners of all the men of the
garrison; signed, D'ARTAGNAN, who, the day before yesterday, arrested M.
Fouquet, for the purpose of his being sent to the Bastile."
Aramis turned pale, and crushed the paper in his hands.
"What is it?" asked Porthos.
"Nothing, my friend, nothing."
"Tell me, Jonathan?"
"Did you speak to M. d'Artagnan?"
"What did he say to you?"
"That for ampler information, he would speak with monseigneur."
"On board his own vessel."
"On board his vessel!" and Porthos repeated, "On board his vessel!"
"M. le mousquetaire," continued Jonathan, "told me to take you both on
board my canoe, and bring you to him."
"Let us go at once," exclaimed Porthos. "Dear D'Artagnan!"
But Aramis stopped him. "Are you mad?" cried he. "Who knows that it is
not a snare?"
"Of the other king's?" said Porthos, mysteriously.
"A snare, in fact! That's what it is, my friend."
"Very possibly; what is to be done, then? If D'Artagnan sends for us - "
"Who assures you that D'Artagnan sends for us?"
"Well, but - but his writing - "
"Writing is easily counterfeited. This looks counterfeited - unsteady - "
"You are always right; but, in the meantime, we know nothing."
Aramis was silent.
"It is true," said the good Porthos, "we do not want to know anything."
"What shall I do?" asked Jonathan.
"You will return on board this captain's vessel."
"And will tell him that we beg he will himself come into the island."
"Ah! I comprehend!" said Porthos.
"Yes, monseigneur," replied Jonathan; "but if the captain should refuse
to come to Belle-Isle?"
"If he refuses, as we have cannon, we will make use of them."
"What! against D'Artagnan?"
"If it is D'Artagnan, Porthos, he will come. Go, Jonathan, go!"
"_Ma foi!_ I no longer comprehend anything," murmured Porthos.
"I will make you comprehend it all, my dear friend; the time for it has
come; sit down upon this gun-carriage, open your ears, and listen well to
"Oh! _pardieu!_ I will listen, no fear of that."
"May I depart, monseigneur?" cried Jonathan.
"Yes, begone, and bring back an answer. Allow the canoe to pass, you men
there!" And the canoe pushed off to regain the fleet.
Aramis took Porthos by the hand, and commenced his explanations.
Explanations by Aramis.
"What I have to say to you, friend Porthos, will probably surprise you,
but it may prove instructive."
"I like to be surprised," said Porthos, in a kindly tone; "do not spare
me, therefore, I beg. I am hardened against emotions; don't fear, speak
"It is difficult, Porthos - difficult; for, in truth, I warn you a second
time, I have very strange things, very extraordinary things, to tell you."
"Oh! you speak so well, my friend, that I could listen to you for days
together. Speak, then, I beg - and - stop, I have an idea: I will, to
make your task more easy, I will, to assist you in telling me such
things, question you."
"I shall be pleased at your doing so."
"What are we going to fight for, Aramis?"
"If you ask me many such questions as that - if you would render my task
the easier by interrupting my revelations thus, Porthos, you will not
help me at all. So far, on the contrary, that is the very Gordian knot.
But, my friend, with a man like you, good, generous, and devoted, the
confession must be bravely made. I have deceived you, my worthy friend."
"You have deceived me!"
"Good Heavens! yes."
"Was it for my good, Aramis?"
"I thought so, Porthos; I thought so sincerely, my friend."
"Then," said the honest seigneur of Bracieux, "you have rendered me a
service, and I thank you for it; for if you had not deceived me, I might
have deceived myself. In what, then, have you deceived me, tell me?"
"In that I was serving the usurper against whom Louis XIV., at this
moment, is directing his efforts."
"The usurper!" said Porthos, scratching his head. "That is - well, I do
not quite clearly comprehend!"
"He is one of the two kings who are contending fro the crown of France."
"Very well! Then you were serving him who is not Louis XIV.?"
"You have hit the matter in one word."
"It follows that - "
"It follows that we are rebels, my poor friend."
"The devil! the devil!" cried Porthos, much disappointed.
"Oh! but, dear Porthos, be calm, we shall still find means of getting out
of the affair, trust me."
"It is not that which makes me uneasy," replied Porthos; "that which
alone touches me is that ugly word _rebels_."
"Ah! but - "
"And so, according to this, the duchy that was promised me - "
"It was the usurper that was to give it to you."
"And that is not the same thing, Aramis," said Porthos, majestically.
"My friend, if it had only depended upon me, you should have become a
Porthos began to bite his nails in a melancholy way.
"That is where you have been wrong," continued he, "in deceiving me; for
that promised duchy I reckoned upon. Oh! I reckoned upon it seriously,
knowing you to be a man of your word, Aramis."
"Poor Porthos! pardon me, I implore you!"
"So, then," continued Porthos, without replying to the bishop's prayer,
"so then, it seems, I have quite fallen out with Louis XIV.?"
"Oh! I will settle all that, my good friend, I will settle all that. I
will take it on myself alone!"
"No, no, Porthos, I conjure you, let me act. No false generosity! No
inopportune devotedness! You knew nothing of my projects. You have done
nothing of yourself. With me it is different. I alone am the author of
this plot. I stood in need of my inseparable companion; I called upon
you, and you came to me in remembrance of our ancient device, 'All for
one, one for all.' My crime is that I was an egotist."
"Now, that is a word I like," said Porthos; "and seeing that you have
acted entirely for yourself, it is impossible for me to blame you. It is
And upon this sublime reflection, Porthos pressed his friend's hand
In presence of this ingenuous greatness of soul, Aramis felt his own
littleness. It was the second time he had been compelled to bend before
real superiority of heart, which is more imposing than brilliancy of
mind. He replied by a mute and energetic pressure to the endearment of
"Now," said Porthos, "that we have come to an explanation, now that I am
perfectly aware of our situation with respect to Louis XIV., I think, my
friend, it is time to make me comprehend the political intrigue of which
we are the victims - for I plainly see there is a political intrigue at
the bottom of all this."
"D'Artagnan, my good Porthos, D'Artagnan is coming, and will detail it to
you in all its circumstances; but, excuse me, I am deeply grieved, I am
bowed down with mental anguish, and I have need of all my presence of
mind, all my powers of reflection, to extricate you from the false
position in which I have so imprudently involved you; but nothing can be
more clear, nothing more plain, than your position, henceforth. The king
Louis XIV. has no longer now but one enemy: that enemy is myself, myself
alone. I have made you a prisoner, you have followed me, to-day I
liberate you, you fly back to your prince. You can perceive, Porthos,
there is not one difficulty in all this."
"Do you think so?" said Porthos.
"I am quite sure of it."
"Then why," said the admirable good sense of Porthos, "then why, if we
are in such an easy position, why, my friend, do we prepare cannon,
muskets, and engines of all sorts? It seems to me it would be much more
simple to say to Captain d'Artagnan: 'My dear friend, we have been
mistaken; that error is to be repaired; open the door to us, let us pass
through, and we will say good-bye.'"
"Ah! that!" said Aramis, shaking his head.
"Why do you say 'that'? Do you not approve of my plan, my friend?"
"I see a difficulty in it."
"What is it?"
"The hypothesis that D'Artagnan may come with orders which will oblige us
to defend ourselves."
"What! defend ourselves against D'Artagnan? Folly! Against the good
Aramis once more replied by shaking his head.
"Porthos," at length said he, "if I have had the matches lighted and the
guns pointed, if I have had the signal of alarm sounded, if I have called
every man to his post upon the ramparts, those good ramparts of Belle-
Isle which you have so well fortified, it was not for nothing. Wait to
judge; or rather, no, do not wait - "
"What can I do?"
"If I knew, my friend, I would have told you."
"But there is one thing much more simple than defending ourselves: - a
boat, and away for France - where -"
"My dear friend," said Aramis, smiling with a strong shade of sadness,
"do not let us reason like children; let us be men in council and in
execution. - But, hark! I hear a hail for landing at the port.
Attention, Porthos, serious attention!"
"It is D'Artagnan, no doubt," said Porthos, in a voice of thunder,
approaching the parapet.
"Yes, it is I," replied the captain of the musketeers, running lightly up
the steps of the mole, and gaining rapidly the little esplanade on which
his two friends waited for him. As soon as he came towards them, Porthos
and Aramis observed an officer who followed D'Artagnan, treading
apparently in his very steps. The captain stopped upon the stairs of the
mole, when half-way up. His companions imitated him.
"Make your men draw back," cried D'Artagnan to Porthos and Aramis; "let
them retire out of hearing." This order, given by Porthos, was executed
immediately. Then D'Artagnan, turning towards him who followed him:
"Monsieur," said he, "we are no longer on board the king's fleet, where,
in virtue of your order, you spoke so arrogantly to me, just now."
"Monsieur," replied the officer, "I did not speak arrogantly to you; I
simply, but rigorously, obeyed instructions. I was commanded to follow
you. I follow you. I am directed not to allow you to communicate with
any one without taking cognizance of what you do; I am in duty bound,
accordingly, to overhear your conversations."
D'Artagnan trembled with rage, and Porthos and Aramis, who heard this
dialogue, trembled likewise, but with uneasiness and fear. D'Artagnan,
biting his mustache with that vivacity which denoted in him exasperation,
closely to be followed by an explosion, approached the officer.
"Monsieur," said he, in a low voice, so much the more impressive, that,
affecting calm, it threatened tempest - "monsieur, when I sent a canoe
hither, you wished to know what I wrote to the defenders of Belle-Isle.
You produced an order to that effect; and, in my turn, I instantly showed
you the note I had written. When the skipper of the boat sent by me
returned, when I received the reply of these two gentlemen" (and he
pointed to Aramis and Porthos), "you heard every word of what the
messenger said. All that was plainly in your orders, all that was well
executed, very punctually, was it not?"
"Yes, monsieur," stammered the officer; "yes, without doubt, but - "
"Monsieur," continued D'Artagnan, growing warm - "monsieur, when I
manifested the intention of quitting my vessel to cross to Belle-Isle,
you demanded to accompany me; I did not hesitate; I brought you with me.
You are now at Belle-Isle, are you not?"
"Yes, monsieur; but - "
"But - the question no longer is of M. Colbert, who has given you that
order, or of whomsoever in the world you are following the instructions;
the question now is of a man who is a clog upon M. d'Artagnan, and who is
alone with M. d'Artagnan upon steps whose feet are bathed by thirty feet
of salt water; a bad position for that man, a bad position, monsieur! I
"But, monsieur, if I am a restraint upon you," said the officer, timidly,
and almost faintly, "it is my duty which - "
"Monsieur, you have had the misfortune, either you or those that sent
you, to insult me. It is done. I cannot seek redress from those who
employ you, - they are unknown to me, or are at too great a distance.
But you are under my hand, and I swear that if you make one step behind
me when I raise my feet to go up to those gentlemen, I swear to you by my
name, I will cleave your head in two with my sword, and pitch you into
the water. Oh! it will happen! it will happen! I have only been six
times angry in my life, monsieur, and all five preceding times _I killed
The officer did not stir; he became pale under this terrible threat, but
replied with simplicity, "Monsieur, you are wrong in acting against my
Porthos and Aramis, mute and trembling at the top of the parapet, cried
to the musketeer, "Good D'Artagnan, take care!"
D'Artagnan made them a sign to keep silence, raised his foot with ominous
calmness to mount the stair, and turned round, sword in hand, to see if
the officer followed him. The officer made a sign of the cross and
stepped up. Porthos and Aramis, who knew their D'Artagnan, uttered a
cry, and rushed down to prevent the blow they thought they already
heard. But D'Artagnan passed his sword into his left hand, -
"Monsieur," said he to the officer, in an agitated voice, "you are a
brave man. You will all the better comprehend what I am going to say to
"Speak, Monsieur d'Artagnan, speak," replied the officer.
"These gentlemen we have just seen, and against whom you have orders, are
"I know they are, monsieur."
"You can understand whether or not I ought to act towards them as your
"I understand your reserve."
"Very well; permit me, then, to converse with them without a witness."
"Monsieur d'Artagnan, if I yield to your request, if I do that which you
beg me, I break my word; but if I do not do it, I disoblige you. I
prefer the one dilemma to the other. Converse with your friends, and do
not despise me, monsieur, for doing this for _your_ sake, whom I esteem
and honor; do not despise me for committing for you, and you alone, an
unworthy act." D'Artagnan, much agitated, threw his arm round the neck
of the young man, and then went up to his friends. The officer,
enveloped in his cloak, sat down on the damp, weed-covered steps.
"Well!" said D'Artagnan to his friends, "such is my position, judge for
yourselves." All three embraced as in the glorious days of their youth.
"What is the meaning of all these preparations?" said Porthos.
"You ought to have a suspicion of what they signify," said D'Artagnan.
"Not any, I assure you, my dear captain; for, in fact, I have done
nothing, no more has Aramis," the worthy baron hastened to say.
D'Artagnan darted a reproachful look at the prelate, which penetrated
that hardened heart.
"Dear Porthos!" cried the bishop of Vannes.
"You see what is being done against you," said D'Artagnan; "interception
of all boats coming to or going from Belle-Isle. Your means of transport
seized. If you had endeavored to fly, you would have fallen into the
hands of the cruisers that plow the sea in all directions, on the watch
for you. The king wants you to be taken, and he will take you."
D'Artagnan tore at his gray mustache. Aramis grew somber, Porthos angry.
"My idea was this," continued D'Artagnan: "to make you both come on
board, to keep you near me, and restore you your liberty. But now, who
can say, when I return to my ship, I may not find a superior; that I may
not find secret orders which will take from me my command, and give it to
another, who will dispose of me and you without hope of help?"
"We must remain at Belle-Isle," said Aramis, resolutely; "and I assure
you, for my part, I will not surrender easily." Porthos said nothing.
D'Artagnan remarked the silence of his friend.
"I have another trial to make of this officer, of this brave fellow who
accompanies me, and whose courageous resistance makes me very happy; for
it denotes an honest man, who, though an enemy, is a thousand times
better than a complaisant coward. Let us try to learn from him what his
instructions are, and what his orders permit or forbid."
"Let us try," said Aramis.
D'Artagnan went to the parapet, leaned over towards the steps of the
mole, and called the officer, who immediately came up. "Monsieur," said
D'Artagnan, after having exchanged the cordial courtesies natural between
gentlemen who know and appreciate each other, "monsieur, if I wished to
take away these gentlemen from here, what would you do?"
"I should not oppose it, monsieur; but having direct explicit orders to
put them under guard, I should detain them."
"Ah!" said D'Artagnan.
"That's all over," said Aramis, gloomily. Porthos did not stir.
"But still take Porthos," said the bishop of Vannes. "He can prove to
the king, and I will help him do so, and you too, Monsieur d'Artagnan,
that he had nothing to do with this affair."
"Hum!" said D'Artagnan. "Will you come? Will you follow me, Porthos?
The king is merciful."
"I want time for reflection," said Porthos.
"You will remain here, then?"
"Until fresh orders," said Aramis, with vivacity.
"Until we have an idea," resumed D'Artagnan; "and I now believe that will
not be long, for I have one already."
"Let us say adieu, then," said Aramis; "but in truth, my good Porthos,
you ought to go."
"No," said the latter, laconically.
"As you please," replied Aramis, a little wounded in his susceptibilities
at the morose tone of his companion. "Only I am reassured by the promise
of an idea from D'Artagnan, an idea I fancy I have divined."
"Let us see," said the musketeer, placing his ear near Aramis's mouth.
The latter spoke several words rapidly, to which D'Artagnan replied,
"That is it, precisely."
"Infallible!" cried Aramis.
"During the first emotion this resolution will cause, take care of
"Oh! don't be afraid."
"Now, monsieur," said D'Artagnan to the officer, "thanks, a thousand
thanks! You have made yourself three friends for life."
"Yes," added Aramis. Porthos alone said nothing, but merely bowed.
D'Artagnan, having tenderly embraced his two old friends, left Belle-Isle
with the inseparable companion with whom M. Colbert had saddled him.
Thus, with the exception of the explanation with which the worthy Porthos
had been willing to be satisfied, nothing had changed in appearance in
the fate of one or the other, "Only," said Aramis, "there is D'Artagnan's
D'Artagnan did not return on board without profoundly analyzing the idea
he had discovered. Now, we know that whatever D'Artagnan did examine,
according to custom, daylight was certain to illuminate. As to the
officer, now grown mute again, he had full time for meditation.
Therefore, on putting his foot on board his vessel, moored within cannon-
shot of the island, the captain of the musketeers had already got
together all his means, offensive and defensive.
He immediately assembled his council, which consisted of the officers
serving under his orders. These were eight in number; a chief of the
maritime forces; a major directing the artillery; an engineer, the
officer we are acquainted with, and four lieutenants. Having assembled
them, D'Artagnan arose, took of his hat, and addressed them thus:
"Gentlemen, I have been to reconnoiter Belle-Ile-en-Mer, and I have found
in it a good and solid garrison; moreover, preparations are made for a
defense that may prove troublesome. I therefore intend to send for two
of the principal officers of the place, that we may converse with them.
Having separated them from their troops and cannon, we shall be better
able to deal with them; particularly by reasoning with them. Is not this
your opinion, gentlemen?"
The major of artillery rose.
"Monsieur," said he, with respect, but firmness, "I have heard you say
that the place is preparing to make a troublesome defense. The place is
then, as you know, determined on rebellion?"
D'Artagnan was visibly put out by this reply; but he was not the man to
allow himself to be subdued by a trifle, and resumed:
"Monsieur," said he, "your reply is just. But you are ignorant that
Belle-Isle is a fief of M. Fouquet's, and that former monarchs gave the
right to the seigneurs of Belle-Isle to arm their people." The major
made a movement. "Oh! do not interrupt me," continued D'Artagnan. "You
are going to tell me that that right to arm themselves against the
English was not a right to arm themselves against their king. But it is
not M. Fouquet, I suppose, who holds Belle-Isle at this moment, since I
arrested M. Fouquet the day before yesterday. Now the inhabitants and
defenders of Belle-Isle know nothing of this arrest. You would announce
it to them in vain. It is a thing so unheard-of and extraordinary, so
unexpected, that they would not believe you. A Breton serves his master,
and not his masters; he serves his master till he has seen him dead. Now
the Bretons, as far as I know, have not seen the body of M. Fouquet. It
is not, then, surprising they hold out against that which is neither M.
Fouquet nor his signature."
The major bowed in token of assent.
"That is why," continued D'Artagnan, "I propose to cause two of the
principal officers of the garrison to come on board my vessel. They will
see you, gentlemen; they will see the forces we have at our disposal;
they will consequently know to what they have to trust, and the fate that
attends them, in case of rebellion. We will affirm to them, upon our
honor, that M. Fouquet is a prisoner, and that all resistance can only be
prejudicial to them. We will tell them that at the first cannon fired,
there will be no further hope of mercy from the king. Then, or so at
least I trust, they will resist no longer. They will yield up without
fighting, and we shall have a place given up to us in a friendly way
which it might cost prodigious efforts to subdue."
The officer who had followed D'Artagnan to Belle-Isle was preparing to
speak, but D'Artagnan interrupted him.
"Yes, I know what you are going to tell me, monsieur; I know that there
is an order of the king's to prevent all secret communications with the
defenders of Belle-Isle, and that is exactly why I do not offer to
communicate except in presence of my staff."
And D'Artagnan made an inclination of the head to his officers, who knew
him well enough to attach a certain value to the condescension.
The officers looked at each other as if to read each other's opinions in
their eyes, with the intention of evidently acting, should they agree,
according to the desire of D'Artagnan. And already the latter saw with
joy that the result of their consent would be sending a bark to Porthos
and Aramis, when the king's officer drew from a pocket a folded paper,
which he placed in the hands of D'Artagnan.
This paper bore upon its superscription the number 1.
"What, more!" murmured the surprised captain.
"Read, monsieur," said the officer, with a courtesy that was not free
D'Artagnan, full of mistrust, unfolded the paper, and read these words:
"Prohibition to M. d'Artagnan to assemble any council whatever, or to
deliberate in any way before Belle-Isle be surrendered and the prisoners
shot. Signed - LOUIS."
D'Artagnan repressed the quiver of impatience that ran through his whole
body, and with a gracious smile:
"That is well, monsieur," said he; "the king's orders shall be complied
Result of the Ideas of the King, and the Ideas of D'Artagnan.
The blow was direct. It was severe, mortal. D'Artagnan, furious at
having been anticipated by an idea of the king's, did not despair,
however, even yet; and reflecting upon the idea he had brought back from
Belle-Isle, he elicited therefrom novel means of safety for his friends.
"Gentlemen," said he, suddenly, "since the king has charged some other
than myself with his secret orders, it must be because I no longer
possess his confidence, and I should really be unworthy of it if I had
the courage to hold a command subject to so many injurious suspicions.
Therefore I will go immediately and carry my resignation to the king. I
tender it before you all, enjoining you all to fall back with me upon the
coast of France, in such a way as not to compromise the safety of the
forces his majesty has confided to me. For this purpose, return all to
your posts; within an hour, we shall have the ebb of the tide. To your
posts, gentlemen! I suppose," added he, on seeing that all prepared to
obey him, except the surveillant officer, "you have no orders to object,
And D'Artagnan almost triumphed while speaking these words. This plan
would prove the safety of his friends. The blockade once raised, they
might embark immediately, and set sail for England or Spain, without fear
of being molested. Whilst they were making their escape, D'Artagnan
would return to the king; would justify his return by the indignation
which the mistrust of Colbert had raised in him; he would be sent back
with full powers, and he would take Belle-Isle; that is to say, the cage,
after the birds had flown. But to this plan the officer opposed a
further order of the king's. It was thus conceived:
"From the moment M. d'Artagnan shall have manifested the desire of giving
in his resignation, he shall no longer be reckoned leader of the
expedition, and every officer placed under his orders shall be held to no
longer obey him. Moreover, the said Monsieur d'Artagnan, having lost
that quality of leader of the army sent against Belle-Isle, shall set out
immediately for France, accompanied by the officer who will have remitted
the message to him, and who will consider him a prisoner for whom he is
Brave and careless as he was, D'Artagnan turned pale. Everything had
been calculated with a depth of precognition which, for the first time in
thirty years, recalled to him the solid foresight and inflexible logic of
the great cardinal. He leaned his head on his hand, thoughtful, scarcely
breathing. "If I were to put this order in my pocket," thought he, "who
would know it, what would prevent my doing it? Before the king had had
time to be informed, I should have saved those poor fellows yonder. Let
us exercise some small audacity! My head is not one of those the
executioner strikes off for disobedience. We will disobey!" But at the
moment he was about to adopt this plan, he saw the officers around him
reading similar orders, which the passive agent of the thoughts of that
infernal Colbert had distributed to them. This contingency of his
disobedience had been foreseen - as all the rest had been.
"Monsieur," said the officer, coming up to him, "I await your good
pleasure to depart."
"I am ready, monsieur," replied D'Artagnan, grinding his teeth.
The officer immediately ordered a canoe to receive M. d'Artagnan and
himself. At sight of this he became almost distraught with rage.
"How," stammered he, "will you carry on the directions of the different
"When you are gone, monsieur," replied the commander of the fleet, "it is
to me the command of the whole is committed."
"Then, monsieur," rejoined Colbert's man, addressing the new leader, "it
is for you that this last order remitted to me is intended. Let us see
"Here they are," said the officer, exhibiting the royal signature.
"Here are your instructions," replied the officer, placing the folded
paper in his hands; and turning round towards D'Artagnan, "Come,
monsieur," said he, in an agitated voice (such despair did he behold in
that man of iron), "do me the favor to depart at once."
"Immediately!" articulated D'Artagnan, feebly, subdued, crushed by
And he painfully subsided into the little boat, which started, favored by
wind and tide, for the coast of France. The king's guards embarked with
him. The musketeer still preserved the hope of reaching Nantes quickly,
and of pleading the cause of his friends eloquently enough to incline the
king to mercy. The bark flew like a swallow. D'Artagnan distinctly saw
the land of France profiled in black against the white clouds of night.
"Ah! monsieur," said he, in a low voice, to the officer to whom, for an
hour, he had ceased speaking, "what would I give to know the instructions
for the new commander! They are all pacific, are they not? and - "
He did not finish; the thunder of a distant cannon rolled athwart the
waves, another, and two or three still louder. D'Artagnan shuddered.
"They have commenced the siege of Belle-Isle," replied the officer. The
canoe had just touched the soil of France.
The Ancestors of Porthos.
When D'Artagnan left Aramis and Porthos, the latter returned to the
principal fort, in order to converse with greater liberty. Porthos,
still thoughtful, was a restraint on Aramis, whose mind had never felt
itself more free.
"Dear Porthos," said he, suddenly, "I will explain D'Artagnan's idea to
"What idea, Aramis?"
"An idea to which we shall owe our liberty within twelve hours."
"Ah! indeed!" said Porthos, much astonished. "Let us hear it."
"Did you remark, in the scene our friend had with the officer, that
certain orders constrained him with regard to us?"
"Yes, I did notice that."
"Well! D'Artagnan is going to give in his resignation to the king, and
during the confusion that will result from his absence, we will get away,
or rather you will get away, Porthos, if there is possibility of flight
for only one."
Here Porthos shook his head and replied: "We will escape together,
Aramis, or we will stay together."
"Thine is a right, a generous heart," said Aramis, "only your melancholy
uneasiness affects me."
"I am not uneasy," said Porthos.
"Then you are angry with me."
"I am not angry with you."
"Then why, my friend, do you put on such a dismal countenance?"
"I will tell you; I am making my will." And while saying these words,
the good Porthos looked sadly in the face of Aramis.
"Your will!" cried the bishop. "What, then! do you think yourself lost?"
"I feel fatigued. It is the first time, and there is a custom in our
"What is it, my friend?"
"My grandfather was a man twice as strong as I am."
"Indeed!" said Aramis; "then your grandfather must have been Samson
"No; his name was Antoine. Well! he was about my age, when, setting out
one day for the chase, he felt his legs weak, the man who had never known
what weakness was before."
"What was the meaning of that fatigue, my friend?"
"Nothing good, as you will see; for having set out, complaining still of
weakness of the legs, he met a wild boar, which made head against him; he
missed him with his arquebuse, and was ripped up by the beast and died
"There is no reason in that why you should alarm yourself, dear Porthos."
"Oh! you will see. My father was as strong again as I am. He was a
rough soldier, under Henry III. and Henry IV.; his name was not Antoine,
but Gaspard, the same as M. de Coligny. Always on horseback, he had
never known what lassitude was. One evening, as he rose from table, his
legs failed him."
"He had supped heartily, perhaps," said Aramis, "and that was why he
"Bah! A friend of M. de Bassompierre, nonsense! No, no, he was
astonished at this lassitude, and said to my mother, who laughed at him,
'Would not one believe I was going to meet with a wild boar, as the late
M. du Vallon, my father did?'"
"Well?" said Aramis.
"Well, having this weakness, my father insisted upon going down into the
garden, instead of going to bed; his foot slipped on the first stair, the
staircase was steep; my father fell against a stone in which an iron
hinge was fixed. The hinge gashed his temple; and he was stretched out
dead upon the spot."
Aramis raised his eyes to his friend: "These are two extraordinary
circumstances," said he; "let us not infer that there may succeed a
third. It is not becoming in a man of your strength to be superstitious,
my brave Porthos. Besides, when were your legs known to fail? Never
have you stood so firm, so haughtily; why, you could carry a house on
"At this moment," said Porthos, "I feel myself pretty active; but at
times I vacillate; I sink; and lately this phenomenon, as you say, has
occurred four times. I will not say this frightens me, but it annoys
me. Life is an agreeable thing. I have money; I have fine estates; I
have horses that I love; I have also friends that I love: D'Artagnan,
Athos, Raoul, and you."
The admirable Porthos did not even take the trouble to dissimulate in the
very presence of Aramis the rank he gave him in his friendship. Aramis
pressed his hand: "We will still live many years," said he, "to preserve
to the world such specimens of its rarest men. Trust yourself to me, my
friend; we have no reply from D'Artagnan, that is a good sign. He must
have given orders to get the vessels together and clear the seas. On my
part I have just issued directions that a bark should be rolled on
rollers to the mouth of the great cavern of Locmaria, which you know,
where we have so often lain in wait for the foxes."
"Yes, and which terminates at the little creek by a trench where we
discovered the day that splendid fox escaped that way."
"Precisely. In case of misfortunes, a bark is to be concealed for us in
that cavern; indeed, it must be there by this time. We will wait for a
favorable moment, and during the night we will go to sea!"
"That is a grand idea. What shall we gain by it?"
"We shall gain this - nobody knows that grotto, or rather its issue,
except ourselves and two or three hunters of the island; we shall gain
this - that if the island is occupied, the scouts, seeing no bark upon
the shore, will never imagine we can escape, and will cease to watch."
"Well! that weakness in the legs?"
"Oh! better, much, just now."
"You see, then, plainly, that everything conspires to give us quietude
and hope. D'Artagnan will sweep the sea and leave us free. No royal
fleet or descent to be dreaded. _Vive Dieu!_ Porthos, we have still
half a century of magnificent adventure before us, and if I once touch
Spanish ground, I swear to you," added the bishop with terrible energy,
"that your brevet of duke is not such a chance as it is said to be."
"We live by hope," said Porthos, enlivened by the warmth of his companion.
All at once a cry resounded in their ears: "To arms! to arms!"
This cry, repeated by a hundred throats, piercing the chamber where the
two friends were conversing, carried surprise to one, and uneasiness to
the other. Aramis opened the window; he saw a crowd of people running
with flambeaux. Women were seeking places of safety, the armed
population were hastening to their posts.
"The fleet! the fleet!" cried a soldier, who recognized Aramis.
"The fleet?" repeated the latter.
"Within half cannon-shot," continued the soldier.
"To arms!" cried Aramis.
"To arms!" repeated Porthos, formidably. And both rushed forth towards
the mole to place themselves within the shelter of the batteries. Boats,
laden with soldiers, were seen approaching; and in three directions, for
the purpose of landing at three points at once.
"What must be done?" said an officer of the guard.
"Stop them; and if they persist, fire!" said Aramis.
Five minutes later, the cannonade commenced. These were the shots that
D'Artagnan had heard as he landed in France. But the boats were too near
the mole to allow the cannon to aim correctly. They landed, and the
combat commenced hand to hand.
"What's the matter, Porthos?" said Aramis to his friend.
"Nothing! nothing! - only my legs; it is really incomprehensible! - they
will be better when we charge." In fact, Porthos and Aramis did charge
with such vigor, and so thoroughly animated their men, that the royalists
re-embarked precipitately, without gaining anything but the wounds they
"Eh! but Porthos," cried Aramis, "we must have a prisoner, quick!
quick!" Porthos bent over the stair of the mole, and seized by the nape
of the neck one of the officers of the royal army who was waiting to
embark till all his people should be in the boat. The arm of the giant
lifted up his prey, which served him as a buckler, and he recovered
himself without a shot being fired at him.
"Here is a prisoner for you," said Porthos coolly to Aramis.
"Well!" cried the latter, laughing, "did you not calumniate your legs?"
"It was not with my legs I captured him," said Porthos, "it was with my
The Son of Biscarrat.
The Bretons of the Isle were very proud of this victory; Aramis did not
encourage them in the feeling.
"What will happen," said he to Porthos, when everybody was gone home,
"will be that the anger of the king will be roused by the account of the
resistance; and that these brave people will be decimated or shot when
they are taken, which cannot fail to take place."
"From which it results, then," said Porthos, "that what we have done is
of not the slightest use."
"For the moment it may be," replied the bishop, "for we have a prisoner
from whom we shall learn what our enemies are preparing to do."
"Yes, let us interrogate the prisoner," said Porthos, "and the means of
making him speak are very simple. We are going to supper; we will invite
him to join us; as he drinks he will talk."
This was done. The officer was at first rather uneasy, but became
reassured on seeing what sort of men he had to deal with. He gave,
without having any fear of compromising himself, all the details
imaginable of the resignation and departure of D'Artagnan. He explained
how, after that departure, the new leader of the expedition had ordered a
surprise upon Belle-Isle. There his explanations stopped. Aramis and
Porthos exchanged a glance that evinced their despair. No more
dependence to be placed now on D'Artagnan's fertile imagination - no
further resource in the event of defeat. Aramis, continuing his
interrogations, asked the prisoner what the leaders of the expedition
contemplated doing with the leaders of Belle-Isle.
"The orders are," replied he, "to kill _during_ combat, or hang
Porthos and Aramis looked at each other again, and the color mounted to
"I am too light for the gallows," replied Aramis; "people like me are not
"And I am too heavy," said Porthos; "people like me break the cord."
"I am sure," said the prisoner, gallantly, "that we could have guaranteed
you the exact kind of death you preferred."
"A thousand thanks!" said Aramis, seriously. Porthos bowed.
"One more cup of wine to your health," said he, drinking himself. From
one subject to another the chat with the officer was prolonged. He was
an intelligent gentleman, and suffered himself to be led on by the charm
of Aramis's wit and Porthos's cordial _bonhomie_.
"Pardon me," said he, "if I address a question to you; but men who are in
their sixth bottle have a clear right to forget themselves a little."
"Address it!" cried Porthos; "address it!"
"Speak," said Aramis.
"Were you not, gentlemen, both in the musketeers of the late king?"
"Yes, monsieur, and amongst the best of them, if you please," said
"That is true; I should say even the best of all soldiers, messieurs, if
I did not fear to offend the memory of my father."
"Of your father?" cried Aramis.
"Do you know what my name is?"
"_Ma foi!_ no, monsieur; but you can tell us, and - "
"I am called Georges de Biscarrat."
"Oh!" cried Porthos, in his turn. "Biscarrat! Do you remember that
"Biscarrat!" reflected the bishop. "It seems to me - "
"Try to recollect, monsieur," said the officer.
"_Pardieu!_ that won't take me long," said Porthos. "Biscarrat - called
Cardinal - one of the four who interrupted us on the day on which we
formed our friendship with D'Artagnan, sword in hand."
"The only one," cried Aramis, eagerly, "we could not scratch."
"Consequently, a capital blade?" said the prisoner.
"That's true! most true!" exclaimed both friends together. "_Ma foi!_
Monsieur Biscarrat, we are delighted to make the acquaintance of such a
brave man's son."
Biscarrat pressed the hands held out by the two musketeers. Aramis
looked at Porthos as much as to say, "Here is a man who will help us,"
and without delay, - "Confess, monsieur," said he, "that it is good to
have once been a good man."
""My father always said so, monsieur."
"Confess, likewise, that it is a sad circumstance in which you find
yourself, of falling in with men destined to be shot or hung, and to
learn that these men are old acquaintances, in fact, hereditary friends."
"Oh! you are not reserved for such a frightful fate as that, messieurs
and friends!" said the young man, warmly.
"Bah! you said so yourself."
"I said so just now, when I did not know you; but now that I know you, I
say - you will evade this dismal fate, if you wish!"
"How - if we wish?" echoed Aramis, whose eyes beamed with intelligence as
he looked alternately at the prisoner and Porthos.
"Provided," continued Porthos, looking, in his turn, with noble
intrepidity, at M. Biscarrat and the bishop - "provided nothing
disgraceful be required of us."
"Nothing at all will be required of you, gentlemen," replied the officer
- "what should they ask of you? If they find you they will kill you,
that is a predetermined thing; try, then, gentlemen, to prevent their
"I don't think I am mistaken," said Porthos, with dignity; "but it
appears evident to me that if they want to find us, they must come and
seek us here."
"In that you are perfectly right, my worthy friend," replied Aramis,
constantly consulting with his looks the countenance of Biscarrat, who
had grown silent and constrained. "You wish, Monsieur de Biscarrat, to
say something to us, to make us some overture, and you dare not - is that
"Ah! gentlemen and friends! it is because by speaking I betray the
watchword. But, hark! I hear a voice that frees mine by dominating it."
"Cannon!" said Porthos.
"Cannon and musketry, too!" cried the bishop.
On hearing at a distance, among the rocks, these sinister reports of a
combat which they thought had ceased:
"What can that be?" asked Porthos.
"Eh! _Pardieu!_" cried Aramis; "that is just what I expected."
"What is that?"
"That the attack made by you was nothing but a feint; is not that true,
monsieur? And whilst your companions allowed themselves to be repulsed,
you were certain of effecting a landing on the other side of the island."
"Oh! several, monsieur."
"We are lost, then," said the bishop of Vannes, quietly.
"Lost! that is possible," replied the Seigneur de Pierrefonds, "but we
are not taken or hung." And so saying, he rose from the table, went to
the wall, and coolly took down his sword and pistols, which he examined
with the care of an old soldier who is preparing for battle, and who
feels that life, in a great measure, depends upon the excellence and
right conditions of his arms.
At the report of the cannon, at the news of the surprise which might
deliver up the island to the royal troops, the terrified crowd rushed
precipitately to the fort to demand assistance and advice from their
leaders. Aramis, pale and downcast, between two flambeaux, showed
himself at the window which looked into the principal court, full of
soldiers waiting for orders and bewildered inhabitants imploring succor.
"My friends," said D'Herblay, in a grave and sonorous voice, "M. Fouquet,
your protector, your friend, you father, has been arrested by an order of
the king, and thrown into the Bastile." A sustained yell of vengeful
fury came floating up to the window at which the bishop stood, and
enveloped him in a magnetic field.
"Avenge Monsieur Fouquet!" cried the most excited of his hearers, "death
to the royalists!"
"No, my friends," replied Aramis, solemnly; "no, my friends; no
resistance. The king is master in his kingdom. The king is the
mandatory of God. The king and God have struck M. Fouquet. Humble
yourselves before the hand of God. Love God and the king, who have
struck M. Fouquet. But do not avenge your seigneur, do not think of
avenging him. You would sacrifice yourselves in vain - you, your
wives and children, your property, your liberty. Lay down your arms, my
friends - lay down your arms! since the king commands you so to do - and
retire peaceably to your dwellings. It is I who ask you to do so; it is
I who beg you to do so; it is I who now, in the hour of need, command you
to do so, in the name of M. Fouquet."
The crowd collected under the window uttered a prolonged roar of anger
and terror. "The soldiers of Louis XIV. have reached the island,"
continued Aramis. "From this time it would no longer be a fight betwixt
them and you - it would be a massacre. Begone, then, begone, and forget;
this time I command you, in the name of the Lord of Hosts!"
The mutineers retired slowly, submissive, silent.
"Ah! what have you just been saying, my friend?" said Porthos.
"Monsieur," said Biscarrat to the bishop, "you may save all these
inhabitants, but thus you will neither save yourself nor your friend."
"Monsieur de Biscarrat," said the bishop of Vannes, with a singular
accent of nobility and courtesy, "Monsieur de Biscarrat, be kind enough
to resume your liberty."
"I am very willing to do so, monsieur; but - "
"That would render us a service, for when announcing to the king's
lieutenant the submission of the islanders, you will perhaps obtain some
grace for us on informing him of the manner in which that submission has
"Grace!" replied Porthos with flashing eyes, "what is the meaning of that
Aramis touched the elbow of his friend roughly, as he had been accustomed
to do in the days of their youth, when he wanted to warn Porthos that he
had committed, or was about to commit, a blunder. Porthos understood
him, and was silent immediately.
"I will go, messieurs," replied Biscarrat, a little surprised likewise at
the word "grace" pronounced by the haughty musketeer, of and to whom, but
a few minutes before, he had related with so much enthusiasm the heroic
exploits with which his father had delighted him.
"Go, then, Monsieur Biscarrat," said Aramis, bowing to him, "and at
parting receive the expression of our entire gratitude."
"But you, messieurs, you whom I think it an honor to call my friends,
since you have been willing to accept that title, what will become of you
in the meantime?" replied the officer, very much agitated at taking leave
of the two ancient adversaries of his father.
"We will wait here."
"But, _mon Dieu!_ - the order is precise and formal."
"I am bishop of Vannes, Monsieur de Biscarrat; and they no more shoot a
bishop than they hang a gentleman."
"Ah! yes, monsieur - yes, monseigneur," replied Biscarrat; "it is true,
you are right, there is still that chance for you. Then, I will depart,
I will repair to the commander of the expedition, the king's lieutenant.
Adieu! then, messieurs, or rather, to meet again, I hope."
The worthy officer, jumping upon a horse given him by Aramis, departed in
the direction of the sound of cannon, which, by surging the crowd into
the fort, had interrupted the conversation of the two friends with their
prisoner. Aramis watched the departure, and when left alone with Porthos:
"Well, do you comprehend?" said he.
"_Ma foi!_ no."
"Did not Biscarrat inconvenience you here?"
"No; he is a brave fellow."
"Yes; but the grotto of Locmaria - is it necessary all the world should
"Ah! that is true, that is true; I comprehend. We are going to escape by
"If you please," cried Aramis, gayly. "Forward, friend Porthos; our boat
awaits us. King Louis has not caught us - _yet_."
The Grotto of Locmaria.
The cavern of Locmaria was sufficiently distant from the mole to render
it necessary for our friends to husband their strength in order to reach
it. Besides, night was advancing; midnight had struck at the fort.
Porthos and Aramis were loaded with money and arms. They walked, then,
across the heath, which stretched between the mole and the cavern,
listening to every noise, in order better to avoid an ambush. From time
to time, on the road which they had carefully left on their left, passed
fugitives coming from the interior, at the news of the landing of the
royal troops. Aramis and Porthos, concealed behind some projecting mass
of rock, collected the words that escaped from the poor people, who fled,
trembling, carrying with them their most valuable effects, and tried,
whilst listening to their complaints, to gather something from them for
their own interest. At length, after a rapid race, frequently
interrupted by prudent stoppages, they reached the deep grottoes, in
which the prophetic bishop of Vannes had taken care to have secreted a
bark capable of keeping the sea at this fine season.
"My good friend," said Porthos, panting vigorously, "we have arrived, it
seems. But I thought you spoke of three men, three servants, who were to
accompany us. I don't see them - where are they?"
"Why should you see them, Porthos?" replied Aramis. "They are certainly
waiting for us in the cavern, and, no doubt, are resting, having
accomplished their rough and difficult task."
Aramis stopped Porthos, who was preparing to enter the cavern. "Will you
allow me, my friend," said he to the giant, "to pass in first? I know
the signal I have given to these men; who, not hearing it, would be very
likely to fire upon you or slash away with their knives in the dark."
"Go on, then, Aramis; go on - go first; you impersonate wisdom and
foresight; go. Ah! there is that fatigue again, of which I spoke to
you. It has just seized me afresh."
Aramis left Porthos sitting at the entrance of the grotto, and bowing his
head, he penetrated into the interior of the cavern, imitating the cry of
the owl. A little plaintive cooing, a scarcely distinct echo, replied
from the depths of the cave. Aramis pursued his way cautiously, and soon
was stopped by the same kind of cry as he had first uttered, within ten
paces of him.
"Are you there, Yves?" said the bishop.
"Yes, monseigneur; Goenne is here likewise. His son accompanies us."
"That is well. Are all things ready?"
"Go to the entrance of the grottoes, my good Yves, and you will there
find the Seigneur de Pierrefonds, who is resting after the fatigue of our
journey. And if he should happen not to be able to walk, lift him up,
and bring him hither to me."
The three men obeyed. But the recommendation given to his servants was
superfluous. Porthos, refreshed, had already commenced the descent, and
his heavy step resounded amongst the cavities, formed and supported by
columns of porphyry and granite. As soon as the Seigneur de Bracieux had
rejoined the bishop, the Bretons lighted a lantern with which they were
furnished, and Porthos assured his friend that he felt as strong again as
"Let us inspect the boat," said Aramis, "and satisfy ourselves at once
what it will hold."
"Do not go too near with the light," said the patron Yves; "for as you
desired me, monseigneur, I have placed under the bench of the poop, in
the coffer you know of, the barrel of powder, and the musket-charges that
you sent me from the fort."
"Very well," said Aramis; and, taking the lantern himself, he examined
minutely all parts of the canoe, with the precautions of a man who is
neither timid nor ignorant in the face of danger. The canoe was long,
light, drawing little water, thin of keel; in short, one of those that
have always been so aptly built at Belle-Isle; a little high in its
sides, solid upon the water, very manageable, furnished with planks
which, in uncertain weather, formed a sort of deck over which the waves
might glide, so as to protect the rowers. In two well-closed coffers,
placed beneath the benches of the prow and the poop, Aramis found bread,
biscuit, dried fruits, a quarter of bacon, a good provision of water in
leathern bottles; the whole forming rations sufficient for people who did
not mean to quit the coast, and would be able to revictual, if necessity
commanded. The arms, eight muskets, and as many horse-pistols, were in
good condition, and all loaded. There were additional oars, in case of
accident, and that little sail called _trinquet_, which assists the speed
of the canoe at the same time the boatmen row, and is so useful when the
breeze is slack. When Aramis had seen to all these things, and appeared
satisfied with the result of his inspection, "Let us consult Porthos,"
said he, "to know if we must endeavor to get the boat out by the unknown
extremity of the grotto, following the descent and the shade of the
cavern, or whether it be better, in the open air, to make it slide upon
its rollers through the bushes, leveling the road of the little beach,
which is but twenty feet high, and gives, at high tide, three or four
fathoms of good water upon a sound bottom."
"It must be as you please, monseigneur," replied the skipper Yves,
respectfully; "but I don't believe that by the slope of the cavern, and
in the dark in which we shall be obliged to maneuver our boat, the road
will be so convenient as the open air. I know the beach well, and can
certify that it is as smooth as a grass-plot in a garden; the interior
of the grotto, on the contrary, is rough; without reckoning, monseigneur,
that at its extremity we shall come to the trench which leads into the
sea, and perhaps the canoe will not pass down it."
"I have made my calculation," said the bishop, "and I am certain it will
"So be it; I wish it may, monseigneur," continued Yves; "but your
highness knows very well that to make it reach the extremity of the
trench, there is an enormous stone to be lifted - that under which the
fox always passes, and which closes the trench like a door."
"It can be raised," said Porthos; "that is nothing."
"Oh! I know that monseigneur has the strength of ten men," replied Yves;
"but that is giving him a great deal of trouble."
"I think the skipper may be right," said Aramis; "let us try the open-air
"The more so, monseigneur," continued the fisherman, "that we should not
be able to embark before day, it will require so much labor, and that as
soon as daylight appears, a good _vedette_ placed outside the grotto
would be necessary, indispensable even, to watch the maneuvers of the
lighters or cruisers that are on the look-out for us."
"Yes, yes, Yves, your reasons are good; we will go by the beach."
And the three robust Bretons went to the boat, and were beginning to
place their rollers underneath it to put it in motion, when the distant
barking of dogs was heard, proceeding from the interior of the island.
Aramis darted out of the grotto, followed by Porthos. Dawn just tinted
with purple and white the waves and plain; through the dim light,
melancholy fir-trees waved their tender branches over the pebbles, and
long flights of crows were skimming with their black wings the shimmering
fields of buckwheat. In a quarter of an hour it would be clear daylight;
the wakened birds announced it to all nature. The barkings which had
been heard, which had stopped the three fishermen engaged in moving the
boat, and had brought Aramis and Porthos out of the cavern, now seemed to
come from a deep gorge within about a league of the grotto.
"It is a pack of hounds," said Porthos; "the dogs are on a scent."
"Who can be hunting at such a moment as this?" said Aramis.
"And this way, particularly," continued Porthos, "where they might expect
the army of the royalists."
"The noise comes nearer. Yes, you are right, Porthos, the dogs are on a
scent. But, Yves!" cried Aramis, "come here! come here!"
Yves ran towards him, letting fall the cylinder which he was about to
place under the boat when the bishop's call interrupted him.
"What is the meaning of this hunt, skipper?" said Porthos.
"Eh! monseigneur, I cannot understand it," replied the Breton. "It is
not at such a moment that the Seigneur de Locmaria would hunt. No, and
yet the dogs - "
"Unless they have escaped from the kennel."
"No," said Goenne, "they are not the Seigneur de Locmaria's hounds."
"In common prudence," said Aramis, "let us go back into the grotto; the
voices evidently draw nearer, we shall soon know what we have to trust
They re-entered, but had scarcely proceeded a hundred steps in the
darkness, when a noise like the hoarse sigh of a creature in distress
resounded through the cavern, and breathless, rapid, terrified, a fox
passed like a flash of lightning before the fugitives, leaped over the
boat and disappeared, leaving behind its sour scent, which was
perceptible for several seconds under the low vaults of the cave.
"The fox!" cried the Bretons, with the glad surprise of born hunters.
"Accursed mischance!" cried the bishop, "our retreat is discovered."
"How so?" said Porthos; "are you afraid of a fox?"
"Eh! my friend, what do you mean by that? why do you specify the fox? It
is not the fox alone. _Pardieu!_ But don't you know, Porthos, that
after the foxes come hounds, and after hounds men?"
Porthos hung his head. As though to confirm the words of Aramis, they
heard the yelping pack approach with frightful swiftness upon the trail.
Six foxhounds burst at once upon the little heath, with mingling yelps of
"There are the dogs, plain enough!" said Aramis, posted on the look-out
behind a chink in the rocks; "now, who are the huntsmen?"
"If it is the Seigneur de Locmaria's," replied the sailor, "he will leave
the dogs to hunt the grotto, for he knows them, and will not enter in
himself, being quite sure that the fox will come out the other side; it
is there he will wait for him."
"It is not the Seigneur de Locmaria who is hunting," replied Aramis,
turning pale in spite of his efforts to maintain a placid countenance.
"Who is it, then?" said Porthos.
Porthos applied his eye to the slit, and saw at the summit of a hillock a
dozen horsemen urging on their horses in the track of the dogs, shouting,
"The guards!" said he.
"Yes, my friend, the king's guards."
"The king's guards! do you say, monseigneur?" cried the Bretons, growing
pale in turn.
"With Biscarrat at their head, mounted upon my gray horse," continued
The hounds at the same moment rushed into the grotto like an avalanche,
and the depths of the cavern were filled with their deafening cries.
"Ah! the devil!" said Aramis, resuming all his coolness at the sight of
this certain, inevitable danger. "I am perfectly satisfied we are lost,
but we have, at least, one chance left. If the guards who follow their
hounds happen to discover there is an issue to the grotto, there is no
help for us, for on entering they must see both ourselves and our boat.
The dogs must not go out of the cavern. Their masters must not enter."
"That is clear," said Porthos.
"You understand," added Aramis, with the rapid precision of command;
"there are six dogs that will be forced to stop at the great stone under
which the fox has glided - but at the too narrow opening of which they
must be themselves stopped and killed."
The Bretons sprang forward, knife in hand. In a few minutes there was a
lamentable concert of angry barks and mortal howls - and then, silence.
"That's well!" said Aramis, coolly, "now for the masters!"
"What is to be done with them?" said Porthos.
"Wait their arrival, conceal ourselves, and kill them."
"_Kill them!_" replied Porthos.
"There are sixteen," said Aramis, "at least, at present."
"And well armed," added Porthos, with a smile of consolation.
"It will last about ten minutes," said Aramis. "To work!"
And with a resolute air he took up a musket, and placed a hunting-knife
between his teeth.
"Yves, Goenne, and his son," continued Aramis, will pass the muskets to
us. You, Porthos, will fire when they are close. We shall have brought
down, at the lowest computation, eight, before the others are aware of
anything - that is certain; then all, there are five of us, will dispatch
the other eight, knife in hand."
"And poor Biscarrat?" said Porthos.
Aramis reflected a moment - "Biscarrat first," replied he, coolly. "He
In spite of the sort of divination which was the remarkable side of the
character of Aramis, the event, subject to the risks of things over which
uncertainty presides, did not fall out exactly as the bishop of Vannes
had foreseen. Biscarrat, better mounted than his companions, arrived
first at the opening of the grotto, and comprehended that fox and hounds
were one and all engulfed in it. Only, struck by that superstitious
terror which every dark and subterraneous way naturally impresses upon
the mind of man, he stopped at the outside of the grotto, and waited till
his companions should have assembled round him.
"Well!" asked the young men, coming up, out of breath, and unable to
understand the meaning of this inaction.
"Well! I cannot hear the dogs; they and the fox must all be lost in this
"They were too close up," said one of the guards, "to have lost scent all
at once. Besides, we should hear them from one side or another. They
must, as Biscarrat says, be in this grotto."
"But then," said one of the young men, "why don't they give tongue?"
"It is strange!" muttered another.
"Well, but," said a fourth, "let us go into this grotto. Does it happen
to be forbidden we should enter it?"
"No," replied Biscarrat. "Only, as it looks as dark as a wolf's mouth,
we might break our necks in it."
"Witness the dogs," said a guard, "who seem to have broken theirs."
"What the devil can have become of them?" asked the young men in chorus.
And every master called his dog by his name, whistled to him in his
favorite mode, without a single one replying to either call or whistle.
"It is perhaps an enchanted grotto," said Biscarrat; "let us see." And,
jumping from his horse, he made a step into the grotto.
"Stop! stop! I will accompany you," said one of the guards, on seeing
Biscarrat disappear in the shades of the cavern's mouth.
"No," replied Biscarrat, "there must be something extraordinary in the
place - don't let us risk ourselves all at once. If in ten minutes you
do not hear of me, you can come in, but not all at once."
"Be it so," said the young man, who, besides, did not imagine that
Biscarrat ran much risk in the enterprise, "we will wait for you." And
without dismounting from their horses, they formed a circle round the
Biscarrat entered then alone, and advanced through the darkness till he
came in contact with the muzzle of Porthos's musket. The resistance
which his chest met with astonished him; he naturally raised his hand and
laid hold of the icy barrel. At the same instant, Yves lifted a knife
against the young man, which was about to fall upon him with all force of
a Breton's arm, when the iron wrist of Porthos stopped it half-way.
Then, like low muttering thunder, his voice growled in the darkness, "I
will not have him killed!"
Biscarrat found himself between a protection and a threat, the one almost
as terrible as the other. However brave the young man might be, he could
not prevent a cry escaping him, which Aramis immediately suppressed by
placing a handkerchief over his mouth. "Monsieur de Biscarrat," said he,
in a low voice, "we mean you no harm, and you must know that if you have
recognized us; but, at the first word, the first groan, the first
whisper, we shall be forced to kill you as we have killed your dogs."
"Yes, I recognize you, gentlemen," said the officer, in a low voice.
"But why are you here - what are you doing, here? Unfortunate men! I
thought you were in the fort."
"And you, monsieur, you were to obtain conditions for us, I think?"
"I did all I was able, messieurs, but - "
"But there are positive orders."
"To kill us?"
Biscarrat made no reply. It would have cost him too much to speak of the
cord to gentlemen. Aramis understood the silence of the prisoner.
"Monsieur Biscarrat," said he, "you would be already dead if we had not
regard for your youth and our ancient association with your father; but
you may yet escape from the place by swearing that you will not tell your
companions what you have seen."
"I will not only swear that I will not speak of it," said Biscarrat, "but
I still further swear that I will do everything in the world to prevent
my companions from setting foot in the grotto."
"Biscarrat! Biscarrat!" cried several voices from the outside, coming
like a whirlwind into the cave.
"Reply," said Aramis.
"Here I am!" cried Biscarrat.
"Now, begone; we depend on your loyalty." And he left his hold of the
young man, who hastily returned towards the light.
"Biscarrat! Biscarrat!" cried the voices, still nearer. And the shadows
of several human forms projected into the interior of the grotto.
Biscarrat rushed to meet his friends in order to stop them, and met them
just as they were adventuring into the cave. Aramis and Porthos listened
with the intense attention of men whose life depends upon a breath of air.
"Oh! oh!" exclaimed one of the guards, as he came to the light, "how
pale you are!"
"Pale!" cried another; "you ought to say corpse-color."
"I!" said the young man, endeavoring to collect his faculties.
"In the name of Heaven! what has happened?" exclaimed all the voices.
"You have not a drop of blood in your veins, my poor friend," said one of
"Messieurs, it is serious," said another, "he is going to faint; does any
one of you happen to have any salts?" And they all laughed.
This hail of jests fell round Biscarrat's ears like musket-balls in a
_melee_. He recovered himself amidst a deluge of interrogations.
"What do you suppose I have seen?' asked he. "I was too hot when I
entered the grotto, and I have been struck with a chill. That is all."
"But the dogs, the dogs; have you seen them again - did you see anything
of them - do you know anything about them?"
"I suppose they have got out some other way."
"Messieurs," said one of the young men, "there is in that which is going
on, in the paleness and silence of our friend, a mystery which Biscarrat
will not, or cannot reveal. Only, and this is certain, Biscarrat has
seen something in the grotto. Well, for my part, I am very curious to
see what it is, even if it is the devil! To the grotto! messieurs, to
"To the grotto!" repeated all the voices. And the echo of the cavern
carried like a menace to Porthos and Aramis, "To the grotto! to the
Biscarrat threw himself before his companions. "Messieurs! messieurs!"
cried he, "in the name of Heaven! do not go in!"
"Why, what is there so terrific in the cavern?" asked several at once.
"Come, speak, Biscarrat."
"Decidedly, it is the devil he has seen," repeated he who had before
advanced that hypothesis.
"Well," said another, "if he has seen him, he need not be selfish; he may
as well let us have a look at him in turn."
"Messieurs! messieurs! I beseech you," urged Biscarrat.
"Nonsense! Let us pass!"
"Messieurs, I implore you not to enter!"
"Why, you went in yourself."
Then one of the officers, who - of a riper age than the others - had till
this time remained behind, and had said nothing, advanced. "Messieurs,"
said he, with a calmness which contrasted with the animation of the young
men, "there is in there some person, or something, that is not the devil;
but which, whatever it may be, has had sufficient power to silence our
dogs. We must discover who this some one is, or what this something is."
Biscarrat made a last effort to stop his friends, but it was useless. In
vain he threw himself before the rashest; in vain he clung to the rocks
to bar the passage; the crowd of young men rushed into the cave, in the
steps of the officer who had spoken last, but who had sprung in first,
sword in hand, to face the unknown danger. Biscarrat, repulsed by his
friends, unable to accompany them, without passing in the eyes of Porthos
and Aramis for a traitor and a perjurer, with painfully attentive ear and
unconsciously supplicating hands leaned against the rough side of a rock
which he thought must be exposed to the fire of the musketeers. As to
the guards, they penetrated further and further, with exclamations that
grew fainter as they advanced. All at once, a discharge of musketry,
growling like thunder, exploded in the entrails of the vault. Two or
three balls were flattened against the rock on which Biscarrat was
leaning. At the same instant, cries, shrieks, imprecations burst forth,
and the little troop of gentlemen reappeared - some pale, some bleeding -
all enveloped in a cloud of smoke, which the outer air seemed to suck
from the depths of the cavern. "Biscarrat! Biscarrat!" cried the
fugitives, "you knew there was an ambuscade in that cavern, and you did
not warn us! Biscarrat, you are the cause that four of us are murdered
men! Woe be to you, Biscarrat!"
"You are the cause of my being wounded unto death," said one of the young
men, letting a gush of scarlet life-blood vomit in his palm, and
spattering it into Biscarrat's livid face. "My blood be on your head!"
And he rolled in agony at the feet of the young man.
"But, at least, tell us who is there?" cried several furious voices.
Biscarrat remained silent. "Tell us, or die!" cried the wounded man,
raising himself upon one knee, and lifting towards his companion an arm
bearing a useless sword. Biscarrat rushed towards him, opening his
breast for the blow, but the wounded man fell back not to rise again,
uttering a groan which was his last. Biscarrat, with hair on end,
haggard eyes, and bewildered head, advanced towards the interior of the
cavern, saying, "You are right. Death to me, who have allowed my
comrades to be assassinated. I am a worthless wretch!" And throwing
away his sword, for he wished to die without defending himself, he rushed
head foremost into the cavern. The others followed him. The eleven who
remained out of sixteen imitated his example; but they did not go further
than the first. A second discharge laid five upon the icy sand; and as
it was impossible to see whence this murderous thunder issued, the others
fell back with a terror that can be better imagined than described. But,
far from flying, as the others had done, Biscarrat remained safe and
sound, seated on a fragment of rock, and waited. There were only six
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